ie. Lucy in Rotorua.
20.04.2013 - 25.04.2013 25 °C
Disclaimer- This entry contains a staggering (but completely necessary) amount of hyperboles along the lines of ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’, ‘absolutely-completely-freakin’-brilliant.’ And also many pictures of geese doing yoga. Consider yourself duly warned.
If, dear reader, I could get away with writing this entire post in an OVER-THE-TOP-BOLD-CAPS-LOCK-ARGH-MY-EYES-WHY-OH-WHY combination of font, and perhaps with a different colour for every word as well, I would. Oh, I would, because I feel that would allow me to at least approach being able to convey my excitement about the shenanigans of my school break just past- a.k.a Lucy- Running Free Across The Plains. (Well, let’s be honest, there aren’t really any plains around here. And rather than running, I was swimming, riding, scrambling, tramping and driving. But wow, doesn’t that title just scream ‘freedom’? ...I gotta find me some plains.)
Having now been a working girl for a month or so, and suddenly facing a week off from what is proving to be a very hectic school life, I decided to combine having cash, a car, and time off to finally head down to Rotorua- the geothermal and mountain biking capital of the North Island. Before driving down through the most ridiculous storm I have ever seen (the sky was a ludicrous mustardy-purpley-bruisey colour, and the rain was nothing short of torrential. If I could have seen the edge of the road, I would have pulled over, such was its intensity. Instead, I gripped that steering wheel and activated all my spidey-driving skills) I went for a misty-morning exploration of Rangitoto- A volcanic island that is but a ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
Racing up to the summit to beat the crowds, I was rewarded by some precious alone time to take in the panorama of Auckland city, sweeping around to the other volcanic islands dotting the harbour. Rangitoto is both the largest and the youngest of the volcanic cones in Auckland’s volcanic field- erupting only 600 years ago, but a blip on the geological time scale. The steep scoria slopes are super chunky and still barren in some areas, but with moss and lichens starting to take up residence and beginning the wonderful process of- well, life. After the ascent of this rocky mount I found myself tumbling through lava tunnels- Typically Kiwi in the lack of any sort of guard-rails-fences-around-stuff-Lucy-is-likely-to-want-to-climb-in-or-over, Rangitoto has a warren of old lava tunnels, dark and oh so quiet. With my head torch I was able to explore quite far, and was rewarded with a perfect perch for lunch under misty sunlight filtering in through amazingly intricate spiderwebs and foliage clinging to the edges of a skylight-esque hole.
Speaking of lunch, (which I do so love to do) the picture below is from my birthday picnic- though in the interest of full disclosure I do have a habit of justifying absolutely everything I feel like doing as a ‘birthday’ treat for about a month after said birthday. Having received a package of amazing gourmet olive oils and salad dressings from my family in Yarrawonga, I went to the local farmers market and purchased a chewy baguette and some dolmades (the baguette and dolmades have since become a Saturday lunch habit- today’s treat being the Honey-Walnut Baguette of Brilliance), grabbed my picnic rug, guitar, book and headed for a quiet, sunny spot in the park, where I alternated stuffing my face and serenading sea gulls.
And here it begins. Awesome. Amazing. Brilliant. Plains or no, exploring the surrounds of Rotorua has certainly been one of my highlights so far of my time here in New Zealand. I drove into Rotorua at night, and marveled as steam wafted from the gutters and gusted around Sheila, filling her with that oh-so-distinctive sulphur (a.k.a rotten egg) smell. Said smell was to accompany me for the duration of my trip, and persist in my clothing even upon arrival back in Auckland. Tasty.
I spent little time in the town of Rotorua itself, as I was not there for the ‘Roto-vegas’ scene but the rollercoasterrific mountain bike trails and geothermal treats that dot the surrounding landscape. I did have lunch at the lake after biking on my first morning- and as a testament to how exhausted I was after this taster of Rotorua’s trails I became convinced that the geese watching me eat were actually doing yoga, posing just for me so I could capture their zen.
With rain storms looming on the horizon, I decided to go for a ‘tramp’ (the delightful verb used in Kiwi-land instead of ‘hike’) up Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain- aptly named when you look at the cliffs striking skywards and the Crater Lake below.)
The summit afforded a stunning view of the approaching rain storms- though sadly the alpine region to the South was so engulfed in cloud I couldn’t pick out any singular peak- way to cut short my Mt Ruapehu-hells-yeah-I-want-to-ski-on-a-volcano imaginings.
I scrambled back down under sporadic rain and tramped through to Kerosene Creek- a natural thermal springs that tumbles through lush bush, hiding at the end of a gravel road. Following the spring I found this wonderful pool- with water the temperature of a warm bath, a sandy bottom that you could dig down into with weary toes to find hotter water, and no one else around, I had a giggle to myself at my luck as I splashed around and removed the muck of muddy mountain bike trails and Rainbow Mountain tramping.
My geothermal desires not nearly sated, I was found bright and early the next morning clutching my camera (on SPORTS MODE. So I could capture the MUD BUBBLES!) at the door to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Sounds kinda kitsch, but at 18 square kilometres, this park has the largest area of surface geothermal activity of any in the Taupo Volcanic Zone- ie, SO MANY mud bubbles, SO MANY crazy coloured mineral deposits! SO MUCH I wanted to touch, but SO GLAD I resisted- I do like my fingers in the (relatively) unspoiled state they are. I had a wonderful time oohing at the sinter terraces, and aahing at the Lady Knox Geyser. Here is but a taster from my pictures:
I spent the afternoon riding again at Rotorua- it was fantastic to see how many different sorts of people were getting out amongst the redwoods and burling down trails- from mum-dad-two-kid family units, to 15-year olds on downhill specific beasts, every man and his dog (yes, I actually did see people riding with their dogs) was out enjoying the brilliant craftsmanship of the close to 100km of trails. I caught a downhill shuttle bus to the top of the mountain and enjoyed (had my abilities sorely tested by) a solid 3 hour downhill loop, involving gnarly off-camber root sections (ie. Hard stuff) and gnarly off-camber root sections while climbing and also on the edge of a cliff (ie. Really, really hard stuff), AND really, really cool looking mushrooms (which were SUPER distracting and thus a serious danger in themselves- oh hi there, EDGE OF CLIFF). After said 4 hour loop I was so exhausted I began to pretend I was in Mario Kart, and at the top of every jump was a little chocolate soymilk carton hovering like the coveted rainbow boxes in that stalwart of a 90s childhood. I chased down the soy milks, ‘capturing’ each one with a cackle of delirium. Which was much better than my earlier delirium-invoked let’s-play-pretend of 10 minutes earlier, where I became convinced I was being hunted by Ringwraiths (It was raining, the forest diffused the rain into mist, it all felt very Lord Of The Rings: The Mountain Bike Edition, and well THAT was just GREAT, thank you over-active imagination). Hallucinations aside, the trails at Rotorua are definitely the best I’ve ever ridden, and I absolutely cannot wait to return to those choc-soymilk hunting grounds.
I spent my last night in Waikite Valley, enjoying the thermal pools that were open until 9pm and opened again at 6am. It was pretty magical to let the hot water draw the tension out of my body (ALL my muscles hurt. ALL of them.) as I watched the steam dance upwards from the creek that fed the pools I was lounging in.
So if I don’t blog again it is because I have left school, work and Auckland and moved to Rainbow Mountain. You can find me delighting over mineral deposits and smelling like rotten eggs.
P.S IF anyone DOES want to see MORE pictures of mud bubbles and geysers, I took almost 200 photos in 2 days. I would HAPPILY take you through them one by one. ‘And this mud bubble, I named him ‘Super Mud Bubble,’ he was PARTICULARLY fantastic because…’ No takers? Really?